Moving a Cichlid Tank

Some cichlids are sensitive to changes in water chemistry, so be careful when introducing them into the new tank.
i single cichlid image by Lucid_Exposure from

If you are moving into a new house or apartment, don't worry about leaving your cichlid tank behind—take it along! Moving a fish tank requires some careful planning but, as long as you think ahead, you can safely and successfully move your cichlid tank into your new home.

Scouting the Location

Before you move your cichlid tank from one house to another you need to select the right location for the tank in your new home. Take a look around your new place for a location that is visible but not in a high-traffic area—you do not want your cichlid tank to be at risk of someone running into it. You should also think about proximity to a power source as well as a sink to make water changes easier. Avoid putting your cichlid tank in a room that has large windows or skylights because exposure to direct sunlight could result in excess algae growth. It is also unwise to place your tank directly in front of a heating or cooling vent because that could make it difficult to maintain a stable tank temperature.


The best thing you can do to prepare your cichlid tank for a move is to transfer your cichlids into one or more smaller tanks. If you have a hospital or quarantine tank set up for emergencies, move your cichlids to that tank so you can disassemble and move the main tank. After removing your fish from the tank, drain the water into portable plastic containers and transfer the tank substrate into one or more containers that allow you to keep it submerged in water. Your tank substrate is home to most of the beneficial bacteria in your tank; by transferring those bacteria directly to the new tank you won't have to wait as long for your tank to cycle before you add your cichlids.

Moving the Tank

If you cannot transfer all the water from your existing cichlid tank to the new location, drain the rest of the water from the tank and wrap it in thick blankets or moving pads to protect the tank during the move. Pack all your aquarium equipment carefully, as well as your tank decorations, and keep all your aquarium supplies together so you can find everything you need to set up the tank as soon as you can once you arrive. If possible, move your tank to the new location and get it set up while your cichlids are still living in the quarantine tank. This will reduce the stress your cichlids experience during the moving process because they will spend less time between tanks. When it comes time to actually move your fish, place them in covered plastic buckets filled with water from their temporary tank.

Setting Up

If you cannot manage to set up your cichlid tank in the new location before you move your fish, be sure to set up the tank as soon as possible after the move. Carefully unpack your tank along with all your equipment and rinse them well to remove any dirt or dust that may have accumulated during the move. Pour your substrate back into the tank along with all of your tank water; then set up the tank the rest of the way by installing your decorations and aquarium equipment. Give your tank time to cycle, testing the water with an aquarium test kit once or twice a day until the ammonia and nitrite levels read zero. Once the tank has cycled, slowly introduce your cichlids back into the tank. If it takes a few days to cycle your tank you may need to install an aquarium heater and filter in the buckets holding your cichlids so the water quality does not decline.

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